Gaza Flotilla Group Part of U.N. NGO BranchJune 4, 2010 - 11:29 AM | by: Ben Evansky
The Turkish group at the center of this week’s deadly high-seas clash with Israel has been a member of a hard-to-access U.N. organization since 2004, which has given the group special access to the U.N. system.
The Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) branch of U.N.’s Department of Economic and Social Affairs invites in NGOs from around the globe, including the Turkish-based Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief (IHH).
Earlier this week Fox News reported that the IHH has links to terrorist groups including Hamas and Al Qaeda. Indeed, the IHH was described in federal court documents as playing a role in the Millennium terrorist plot to bomb Los Angeles International Airport.
The Turkish charity was described in a recent report as being a “radical Islamic organization with an anti-Western orientation,” and that “besides its legitimate philanthropic activities, it supports radical Islamic networks, including Hamas, and that at least in the past, even global jihad networks.” (See full report below)
Anne Bayefsky, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute and Touro College, and an active participant in the U.N.’s NGO system, tells Fox News that the status granted to IHH gives most NGOs access to U.N. diplomats and enables them to speak at sessions of a number of U.N. bodies that are streamed online around the world and translated into six languages.
Their consultative status also allows groups to distribute their material or statements as U.N. documents, Bayefsky said, “which gives them permanence and widespread circulation.”
Bayefsky says that the difficulty in gaining UN accreditation often depends on the organization’s nineteen member committee which decides who warrants membership. While “serious” human rights organizations are often blocked from gaining membership, she said, “applications from NGOs from or aligned with non-democratic states sail through without objection.”
While the IHH denies it supports terrorism, one of its members, Oguzan Ulas, told Fox News that Israel is trying to smear the organization. He did however say that the IHH does support Hamas and said that his organization disagreed with Hamas being designated a terrorist group by the U.S.
A U.S. State Department spokesman told Fox News that the IHH has not been designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization, and added, “We are unable to comment on the internal process with respect to specific designations.”
But he made it clear where the U.S. stood on fighting terrorism: “We are fully committed to taking appropriate action against foreign groups engaging in terrorist activity in order to prevent such groups from obtaining the resources and support needed to undertake terrorist activity.”
Asked whether the United Nations should take any action against the IHH, a spokeswoman for the Office of the Under-Secretary-General for the U.N. Department of Economic and Social Affairs would only confirm that the IHH does indeed enjoy consultative status within the U.N.’s NGO system.
Yet this is not the first time the U.N’s NGO system has accepted groups with terrorist links. In 2006 and 2007, Fox News exposed a Saudi-based charity called the International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO), which, despite having two of its branches in the Philippines and Indonesia on the U.S. and U.N. terror list for aiding Al Qaeda, still enjoys full NGO status. Despite calls from members of Congress to expel them, the U.N. remains silent.
Nineteen countries decide on who gets to join the NGO branch, including Angola, China, Cuba, Egypt, Pakistan, Qatar, Russia and Sudan, a cast of member states that incenses Bayefsky.
“That such countries are the ones that decide who can and cannot participate in the operations of the U.N. explains a lot about what happens there,” she said.